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Vacation rental

Vacation rental is a term in the travel industry meaning renting out a furnished apartment or house on a temporary basis to tourists as an alternative to a hotel. Vacation rentals have long been a popular travel option in Europe (especially in the UK) as well as in Canada and are becoming increasingly popular across the world. They are often referred to as self-catering rentals or villa rentals. In some cities, like Barcelona, local authorities determined that vacation rentals were becoming a threat to the hotel industry and passed some legislation placing regulations and limits on the industry, while in others, such as England, Ireland, France and Spain, the government promotes and certifies holiday rentals, even offering its own program of holiday/vacation rentals.

A vacation rental is a fully furnished property, such as a condominium, townhome or single-family-style home, often referred to as villa rentals in Europe. The client/traveler arranges to rent the vacation rental property for a designated period of time, many rent on nightly basis similar to hotel rooms, although the more prevalent vacation rental industry practice is typically weekly rentals. A true vacation rental is not for sale to the guest; rather, the owner of the vacation rental merely allows the guest to rent the property for a predetermined length of time.

Differences between villa/vacation rentals and timeshares

Consumers unfamiliar with the concept of a vacation rental may confuse it with the seemingly similar, but distinctly different, timeshare. A timeshare can still be rented as a vacation rental should an owner decide to put his owned week(s) on a vacation rental program. Many timeshare resorts offer quarter-ownership which offers the owner 13-weeks of ownership and, therefore, more weeks to offer for rental.

A timeshare is a piece of real estate—often a fully furnished condominium—that is jointly shared by multiple owners. While different types of timeshare ownerships exist, in general, each owner bears a portion of the responsibility, along with the right to a segment of time in which he or she is granted sole use of the property. Timeshare resorts allow financially qualified guests to rent and tour their unowned properties and then make those properties available to the guest for purchase. Timeshare owners can also choose to bank their week with and exchange company such as RCI, or rent the unit

Although lower rents for vacation rentals by owner were once the norm, this is not always the primary benefit. Quite often a vacation rental will feature more amenities and features, such as more space, fully-equipped kitchens, sports and beach equipment, games, DVD libraries, books, etc. Owners managing their own properties tend to be more aware of wear and tear and have better cash flow to use to maintain and upgrade the property. Perhaps the primary difference is that vacation rentals tend to offer more space and the advantage of sampling what life in one's destination is truly like for the locals.

Pros and cons of vacation rentals

Vacation and villa rentals are generally appealing for many reasons, some of the foremost being cost savings, more space, and no tips, taxes or service charges that are associated with hotel rooms. Villa and vacation rentals have kitchens for cooking, living rooms for gathering together and offer the appeal of living in a real neighborhood and soaking up the rhythm of the locals. In the United States, hotels often enjoy the advantages of brand recognition, familiar reservation processes, and on-site staff for problem resolution. For a guest, booking a vacation rental may mean stepping out of that comfort zone in order to garner some of the advantages they offer. Perceived cons of vacation rentals can include having to communicate directly with the property owner, being unfamiliar with the property, lack of on-site staff, and concerns about quality or cleanliness -- however, these are most often mitigated by dealing with villa or vacation rental agencies that manage vacation properties for owners and they offer many of the same services hotels offer to their guests, e.g., front desk check-in, 24-hour maintenance, in-house housekeeping, concierge service.

The benefits generally outweigh the potential negatives, with many vacation rentals offering more space (multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, separate living areas), more amenities (fully equipped kitchens, fireplaces, private hot tubs), convenient locations (on the beach, ski-in/ski-out, city centers in real neighborhoods) and greater privacy than a hotel, including the fact that many villa/vacation rentals give travelers the option of inhabiting real neighborhoods in their destination and living like the locals. As of 2006, vacation rental management has become a $10 billion industry and continues to become more popular.

Vacation rentals can range from budget studio apartments to lavish, expensive private villas in the world's most desirable locations, some with pricetags of many thousands per night and all the amenities you would find in any luxury accommodation (fully staffed, private beaches, boats, chefs, cooking lessons, etc) to cater to the guests.

Vacation rentals are available in most states of the US and very prevalent in major tourist areas such as Hawaii, California, and Florida. The vacation rental market is much larger in Europe than it is in the United States as it has long been a common travel option for European travellers.

Management companies

Many property owners contract a vacation rental management company to manage the business of their vacation rentals. These management companies market the vacation rental property, providing information and photos to guests and handling reservations and billing in the homeowner’s stead. These companies also handle details such as guest check-in, housekeeping and property maintenance.

The largest vacation rental property management company in the United States represents nearly 17,000 vacation rental properties and there are many such specialty agencies throughout the world. Guests who book through vacation rental management companies may experience benefits including quality control, housekeeping services, professional reservations agents and on-site or on-call staff.

Many such companies are members of the Vacation Rental Managers Association and there are additionally many rental property management companies that deal only with vacation rental brokers/agencies that specialize in the villa/vacation rental industry.

Listing services and aggregators

Aside from those represented by a few large property management companies, vacation rentals may be offered through aggregation portals. Aggregators typically display property information and photos provided by the homeowner, however the listing services bear no legal responsibility for the accuracy of the information. Also, because the listing services do not verify the information, they strongly encourage guests to request references from past renters and to procure a lease agreement prior to sending money to a homeowner.

A vacation rental may not be booked directly with a listing service. Because each property owner has his or her own deposit and payment requirements, cancellation policies, key-pick-up procedures, etc., a guest must contact the property owner or owner’s agent directly in order to book.

A guest who books through a listing service or direct from owner may experience the benefit of lower rental rates.

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